Kaduna State High Court has nullified the confiscation and revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) of Durbar Hotel, owned by the family of the late Military Head of State, Sani Abacha, by Governor Nasir el-Rufai.
El-Rufai had, in January 2020, demolished the hotel and went ahead to revoke the CofO while the case was still in court.
Consequently, the Abacha family, through their counsel, Reuben Atabo (SAN), dragged the governor and three others to Kaduna High Court, presided over by Justice Hannatu Balogun, for illegal demolition of the hotel and revocation of the CofO.
Those joined in the suit number KDH/KAD/51/2020 included the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency and Kaduna State Geographic and Information Service.
However, the lead counsel to Abacha family had, upon a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Order 15 Rules 1 of the Kaduna State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2007 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court dated and filed on December 17, 2020, prayed for an order setting aside and/or nullifying the purported notice of revocation of CofO No. 177789 in respect of Durbar Hotel addressed to Mohammed Abacha during the pendency of the suit.
He prayed for “an order setting aside and/or nullifying the revocation of the title of the plaintiff/applicant on January 24, 2020 by the defendants/ respondents, but received on January 29, 2020 during the pendency of the action.”
Also, he prayed for “an order to maintain status quo ante bellum prior to the commencement of the action, and for such further order(s) as the court may deem fit to make in the present circumstances, which came up for hearing on March 30, 2023 before the presiding judge.”
Counsel to the plaintiff, E.D Izu Esq, moving the application supported by a nine-paragraph affidavit, annextures and a written address in support of the application, submitted that the defendants had not been able to counter the averments in the affidavit because they were awaiting directives from the government officials and applied for an adjournment to put their house in order.
Meanwhile, Justice Balogun ruled: “Having heard both counsel, the oral application to stay hearing of the motion dated December 17, 2020 and filed on the same date cannot be granted because the matter in the Court of Appeal is an appeal against the grant of leave to amend the plaintiffs’ processes.
“There is no stay of proceedings in this court and the defendants appear not to be diligent in prosecuting their appeal. At the same time, they continue to disobey the orders of this court and are trying to do acts that will prejudice the other side. The duty of this court is to ensure a level playing ground for all parties.”
She said the application to stay proceedings on the matter could not be granted in the interest of justice; hence, ordered that the business of the day shall proceed.
She added: “The Supreme Court and indeed all courts of the land have decried the use of self-help by litigants. It is the duty of the courts to provide a level-playing field for all parties and not allow any side to use the judicial system side-by-side with self-help to the disadvantage of the other.
“On the whole, I grant the plaintiff’s motion dated December 17, 2020 and nullify the purported notice of revocation of CofO No. 177789 in respect of Durbar Hotel and nullifying the revocation of the plaintiffs’ title made on the January 24, 2020 and received on January 29, 2020 during the pendency of this action. The status quo ante bellum i.e. prior to commencement of this action, shall be maintained by all parties,” Justice Balogun stressed.